A good friend wrote this article and I have to share it with you. A a creative I realize I have both a job and a vocation. Her article really put into words what I feel deep inside.
Impressions (November 2015)
by Connie Dunwoody
When I was a child, someone asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I didn't really know, and it never quite became clear, so in grade 12, at the end of my high school career, I visited the Guidance Counsellor in our high school. She provided me with a questionnaire designed to identify which career paths would be best for me. It was, as I recall, about 100 multiple-choice questions. I answered them as honestly as my 18-year-old self knew how. The end result? One career. Only one. The career?
Me? Be that somber for that long, expressing endless sympathy and consolation? There are people who are exceptionally well suited to that work. I could have done it. But it probably would have killed me.
Indeed, for my own eventual Celebration of Life my nephew and each of my nieces has been tasked with a different job designed to put the 'fun' back in 'fun'eral. Like, providing red clown noses for all the attendees. Such as, creating a way for me to sit up and wave when I am long beyond sitting up.
I digress. My point is this: which of us at 17 or 18 years of age, faced with important decisions, really knew (or knows) what we want to do with the rest of our lives? In my experience, to be convinced of what you want to do with the rest of your life at a young age, and to do that thing, is fairly rare.
Recently I observed to a friend, “I can’t believe how much I love my job. This is the one I’ve waited my whole life for. It just feels so satisfying, like I’m finally doing what I'm meant to be doing. I didn’t even know it was possible: I was busy, but I wasn’t satisfied. Sometimes I’d think, This is kind of fun, but what’s the point of it all?”
My friend smiled gently and quietly replied, “Congratulations on finding your vocation.” And as I realized she was right, a profound and lasting peace settled on me. Ah, this. This.
It’s true I’ve rarely taken a job I knew I could do. Where’s the fun in that? I’d apply for a position that interested me, learn everything I could, get bored and start looking for the next challenge. Sometimes those who loved me worried that I was flighty, never satisfied, always moving on. Looking back, I realize that what was missing wasn’t the challenge, it was the why. I wasn’t flighty; I was searching.
I think a vocation is less what you do and more why you do it. It's purpose, not productivity. It's a glorious symphony where the work is the score but the performance is spirit. Both are necessary: the execution and interpretation are yours, but without a why, the music begins to feel mundane.
It’s more than that, too. It may not even be a ‘job’. It could be loving your family well, volunteering at a shelter, or welcoming the stranger in your midst. It’s the place that feels familiar in chaos; it's comfort when life is daunting. It’s about serving something bigger than you, but that without you is somehow less. Your vocation contains notes and tempo that flow in your veins and match your breath and colour your vision and make your heart beat so strongly the song cannot be denied. It is simultaneously contained deep within and bursting out of you. It’s the Spirit breathing life and purpose into your actions. It’s determination and vision and fortitude and courage, and it’s who He designed you to be.
That doesn't mean there aren’t bad days, and hard work and difficult times: but those days, the Spirit carries you through. The passion sustains you because it's a connection with something outside yourself but integral to the very core of you. You feel like you're part of something, shaping something, creating something, building something. Rebuilding something. Rebuilding someone.
Vocations shape us, not the other way around, and it takes courage to unearth what it is that matters, to take a good, long, searching look at ourselves, to discover the best versions of ourselves. When we recognize the Composer in the music we leap for joy because that moment is ineffably sweet. Ah, this. This.
Your vocational path may not be easy or obvious. It may be laid out before you like the yellow brick road or it may be hidden in a tangled jungle of jumbled notes. It may be unburdened and clear or it may be a slog through worldly mire. It may be all of the above, from time to time. Sometimes it’s lonely, but you are never alone: look up and see Who walks with you. Look up and see Who composed your song, Who created the burning why and Who invites you to walk by still waters until the tune is clear and the way stretches out before you, a crescendo of certainty. Look up. Maybe you’re where you’ve always been—but now the melody rings true.
Actually, I think the question is wrong. It’s not “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Instead, we should ask, “Who do you want to be?” Because it’s not what we do, it’s who we are. It’s the Spirit within.
Ah, this. This.
© 2015 Connie Dunwoody